Florida issues hurricane alert

Forecasters has issued a tropical storm warning for the Florida Gulf Coast, where preparations were being made for life-threatening flooding and fierce winds, while residents of Hawaii’s Big Island were warned of an encroaching hurricane.

Some local governments in Florida have begun distributing sandbags as the unnamed tropical depression heads toward the state’s Gulf Coast where as much as 15 inches of rain could fall from Indian Pass on the panhandle along the Gulf of Mexico to north of Tampa, the National Hurricane Center said in an early morning advisory.

Persons located within these areas should be prepared to take all necessary actions to protect life and property from rising water,” the center said.

The center also issued a hurricane watch for the coast, saying the system, which is currently packing 35 mph (55 kph) with higher gusts, is expected to strengthen as it heads east.

Flooding, storm surge, fierce winds and tornadoes were all threats to the region, which could begin feeling the storm late on Wednesday, Florida Governor Rick Scott said in a statement.

On its current path, the system could make landfall on Florida’s north-central Gulf Coast on Thursday, bringing storms into Georgia and the eastern Carolinas on its way to the Atlantic Ocean.

Florida raised the activation status of its State Emergency Operations Center on Tuesday to begin preparing.

Another unnamed tropical depression was turning out to sea on Wednesday after threatening the North Carolina coast, according to the hurricane center.

On Hawaii’s Big Island, residents were warned of an encroaching hurricane expected to bring strong winds and heavy rains.

The National Weather Service (NWS) tracked Hurricane Madeline swirling about 235 miles (380 km) east of the town of Hilo around 11 p.m. local time on Tuesday. The storm was forecast to “pass dangerously close” on Wednesday, prompting the NWS to issue a hurricane warning for the island.

Madeline was ranked as a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph (150 kph), the weather service said.

The County of Hawaii sent residents an alert about the hurricane’s dangers, including heavy rains that could lead to mudslides, as well as possibly damaging ocean swells.

Preparations to protect life and property should be completed by nightfall today,” the alert said.

Reuters/Hauwa M.